Trial of Possession
A Trial of Possession is one of the Six Trials of Combat mandated within the culture of the Clans. It allows the performance of regulated raids for specific critical assets while minimizing losses due to unplanned and unannounced raiding. It also eliminates collateral damage and danger to noncombatants. One advantage to the custom of prebattle bidding is the coordinated and formalized reduction of military personnel and resources used by the combatants, preserving the strength of both the defending and attacking forces. This trial is necessary because no one in the Clans, even a Clan itself, actually owns property or equipment. This trial is the second most common in the Clans, and may only take place between warriors. To prevent nuisances from scoring a "lucky break", repeated Trials of Possession for something can earn an appeal to the Clan council or Grand Council. The Trial of Possession occurs far more frequently between two Clans rather than two individuals in the same Clan.
Most trials begin with a ritual challenge called a batchall, where the challenger declares his/her name, the type of trial and other parameters. These parameters are dictated by the type of trial that the attacker proposes. In a Trial of Possession the declared parameters are the prize to be won. The prize can be anything from a piece of equipment such as a 'Mech or a DropShip, a quantity of a specific resource or material, an installation, a piece of territory, an entire planet or even just a prized genetic line.
The challenged have many options. They may demand something of equal value if they defeat the challenger or they may decline to the terms at no loss of honor if they make an immediate counteroffer. In situation where a counteroffer is made there is usually an increase in value to the eventual winner of the Trial. The challenge may also declined with no loss of honor if it is made by Inner Sphere forces and it is viewed as a dishonorable abuse of Clan rituals. In this type of challenge the winner does not make bondsman of the defeated unless it was stated as part of the parameters agreed to by both parties.
Another parameter decided on in the batchall are the forces each side will commit to the Trial. Each successive bid of force is less than the previous bid, causing both parties to keep undercutting each other until they reach agreement on the minimum amount of force each side will commit. It is believed by the Clans that to win with fewer forces increases the glory of the victor, but this process also minimizes the military waste produced in the course of the trial.
In the instance of personal conflict between two warriors there is no batchall for force composition, only an agreement of what form the Trial will take and what the prize for the victor will be. In this instance the warrior who is being challenged will then decide the form of combat and if the fight will be augmented, meaning that two MechWarriors will fight in their 'Mechs, or unaugmented, meaning a person to person fight using no weapons. In addition to these limitation other parameters may be included when choosing the form the combat will take, such as weapons in unarmed combat or limitations on the systems active in augmented combat. This can take the form of having radar or targeting/tracking systems turned off, thereby forcing both participants to use "Iron sights" while piloting their 'Mech or AeroSpace fighter, a true test of the skill of the combatants.
The warrior who calls the challenge is then allowed to choose the location of the circle of equals. The circle of equals is an area where the combat occurs and a Trial is always fought within the circle. The combatants' peers come to the Circle to watch and judge the Trial being fought. In situations where the prize is an installation or other location the Circle is created in a proxy location to prevent collateral damage to the prize itself. In some instances this proxy can even be on another planet far from the prize location. One good example of effective bidding was when Phelan Ward, of Clan Wolf (a bondsman taken in battle, formerly known as Phelan Kell of the Kell Hounds) fought an unaugmented Trial against an Clan elemental. As the challenging party Ward called for the challenge to take place in zero-g aboard a Dropship in orbit.
During a Trial no warrior other than that of the challenger with their forces/equipment and challenged with their forces/equipment can enter the Circle. In situation where others interfere the Trial becomes null and void and the warrior who broaches the circle is greatly dishonored. It will also dishonor the challenger and challenged if such an unthinkable act is committed.
The circle is usually a circle or sphere that has a radius of about five to ten meters for melee combat, two to five kilometers for 'Mech combat and about 100 km for aerospace combat. The circle of equals ensures no noncombatants are caught in the conflict, and in larger battles, there is no collateral damage to surrounding building and equipment.
- Era Digest: Golden Century, p. 16